Oceans of ink have been spilled by so many concerned Nigerians from different professional backgrounds lending their voices to the constitutionality of the commander in chief of the armed forces deploying members of the Nigerian Military to the South east region of the country few days ago. The military guys have tagged their new assignment in this region as the operation python dance 11 which many of us are foreseeing this dance taking place in a theatre of war rather than a theatre of entertainment if urgent steps are not taken to withdraw them forthwith.
The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2011 as amended) under section 214(1) creates the Nigerian Police Force. Section 4 of the Police Act inter alia empowered the police to maintain law and other, arrest and take necessary steps for the prevention of crime and protection of lives and properties.
Section 217(1) of the same constitution creates the Armed forces of the federation. The duties of the Armed forces as spelt out under Section 217(2) are thus:
- Defending Nigeria from external aggression
- Maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sear or air
- Suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the president, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by Act of the national assembly.
- Performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an act of the National assembly.
Similar provisions are contained in the Armed Forces Act; needless is then to reproduce the provisions in the Act.
Arguments have trailed the cyberspace regarding the activities of the Indigenous people of Biafra as constituting insurrection under paragraph c of section 217(2) of the constitution which will automatically empower the military to clamp down on them in exercising their duties under the law.
Insurrection according to Blacks law dictionary 9th edition page 879 is defined as a violent revolt against an oppressive authority. Insurrection is distinguished from rout, riot, and offense connected with mob violence by the fact that in insurrection there is an organized and armed uprising against authority or operations of government, while crimes growing out of mob violence, however serious they may be and however numerous the participants, are simply unlawful acts in disturbance of the peace which do not threaten the stability of the government or the existence of political society.
Can one reasonably construe the action of the IPOB as unreasonable as they may be as insurrection to warrant the deployment of the military might to the region? Before I forgot the gallant display of expertise and military might by the Nigerian Armed forces to suppress the Boko Haram sect cannot be undermined by any well meaning Nigerian neither some of the human right abuse cases recorded by the Nigerian army cannot easily be forgotten especially by the Zaki Bian Community in Benue state and Udi in Balyesa state. These examples above are among the few to prove the effectiveness of the Nigerian military in suppressing armed sect and their unprofessionalism in combating civil unrest in a democratic setting like ours.
The primary duties of the operation python dance 11 is merely that of the day to day activities of the Nigerian Police of protecting lives, protection of properties among others. Insinuating the need to call in aid the help of the khaki boys in aid of civil authorities, the constitution under section 217(2)(c) expressly makes provision as to the procedure in which the military will be invited to the supper of the civil authorities in carrying out their duties.. Giving live to the section of the law above the court in Yusuf v Obasanjo (2005) 18 NWLR (956) 96 @ 176 PARA C-D..it is up to the police to protect our nascent democracy and not the military,otherwise the democracy might be wittingly or unwittingly militarized. This is not what the citizenry bargained for after wrestling power from the military in 1999. Conscious step or steps should be taken to civilianize the polity and therby ensure survival and sustenance of democracy.
I am not in any way unmindful of the Oath of the president which he has sworn to discharge his duties faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity and well being of Nigeria. Reiterating the President’s Oath in this regard the court in Yusuf v Obasanjo (supra) stated that…as an elected president of the country, he will always have standing invitation and indeed a duty that must not be compromised to maintain law and order anywhere in the country. May no nation that operates under the rule of law have no Head of state who will turn his back to that duty.
Much has been said about the activities of IPOB especially the inauguration of Biafra Security Service, is that not a good reason enough for the Nigerian police to take the necessary steps in accordance with the law and prosecute those behind the act, what actually has warranted the deployment of military might whose presence for the few days has caused lost of so many lives and properties as well as a flagrant disregard of human right. How about the disobedience of the bail terms granted the leader of the IPOB? Yes he has absolutely violated all the bail conditions given to him by the court but should the military now take up the duty of the court to enforce its orders, who said the court is handicap on the disregard of their sacred orders, after all there is a pending motion for the revocation of his bail.
It is in line of the above, that in the spirit of democracy and the preservation of the rule of law that I join a host of Nigerians to call for the withdrawal of the military might in the south east to allow the police take up their primary duty and bring to book any Nigerian that has, will and is about to commit any crime in that region. When the need arises they will be honorably invited following due process of law, but for now the situation has not aroused neither has the law been followed.
By A.I Iortyaver, Esq
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A Report Of The Judgement Of The 16 Divisions Of The Court Of Appeal In Nigeria